Tuesday, August 22nd 2017

A mind-body portrait of depression

This is the first in a series, Finding happiness in all the right places, by a young female seeker


BY EMMA — I didn’t understand the numbness, the lack of desire to eat, my entire body feeling warm, almost feverish and noticeably weak, unexplainable/explainable bruises on my body . . . the void where motivation used to be, the constant tears at any phone calls, feeling as if I was in a dull dream. I told my friends I was confused, I didn’t understand what was going on with me. Maybe I was sick, this didn’t make sense to me. My thoughts were healthy, my emotions disastrous: What was I not facing?

My body is my mind

In early June, I wrote a poem to express the strange and foreign numbness permeating my body, being — and consequently my ever-odd reality:

I don’t know why
I don’t know what
Can’t fathom how
But I don’t care
It is over-saturated irrelevant

When you’re numb
Everything is simple
Vaguely familiar but distant

The strong breeze on your legs
The sadness the cat expresses energetically
The time is just a number without consequence
The situations are like that of someone else’s movie
Provocation useless

The void is temporarily shadowed
The walls on the buildings surreal
Motions perfunctory
The keys are shinier than before
The symbols meaningless
The trees painted

Only the wind can attract attention
The movement is fortunate, a candid reminder its all real, the result of movement meaning its not a silent framed picture, flat and worn
There is life wherever the wind blows

–Emma Juniper, June, 2008

My body and emotions often reveal what’s really going on rather than my thoughts — and my thoughts can often find explanation. This was different. I was hiding from truths which were dragging me down, down . . . deeper down.

Speaking online to a best friend I explained:

I don’t understand what’s going on with me really — physically, energetically. That would help. I don’t know what’s making me sick, so its hard to know what to do about it. I’ve got no life force . . . numb, can’t eat, fever, surreal. But you need to focus on yourself — and this great opportunity, I’ll figure it out.

I was blessed that his response was:

Let’s meditate and focus on positive. Let’s make positive affirmations and concentrate on them?

Okay? You’re great – be a force of goodness

I know to do these things: To breathe . . . affirmations, meditate, the power of positive thinking, smiling, hugs . . . among many other things that I can do to make myself feel better.

But I was in such a state that I couldn’t even process the idea of doing something to feel better. I needed guidance and knew I would follow it but couldn’t come to it myself, at least not quick enough.

After a couple of miserable drudging-along days of this state and the spark of an idea that I could do something to get myself out of it, I made an appointment to see John Howard, my energy healer.

I arrived on time the next afternoon, after a morning of laying in bed kidding myself that I was thinking/preparing myself for my day, no food eaten. I walked in and sat down, emotion-less, but on the verge of a flood. I explained the numbness, the confusion, the disconnect, the whole she-bang — and was quite surprised by his simple response: “It sounds like you’re depressed.”

It hadn’t dawned on me, most likely because I was too out of it for many thoughts at all. I’d never experienced this before, and thought: “Oh, so this is depression!” I resisted at first . . . depressed? Me? No! I don’t get depressed. Other people do, not me.

But I couldn’t keep that up for long and moved to: “Ok, now what?”

John had me envision, in my heart, what this depression looked like — and I saw a dark spindle of black and red sharp objects twirling, spiraling, with nervous energy — and no rhythm. He then asked me to envision, in my heart, a white orb of light holding my hopes and my dreams.

The next step was to look forward to see what my life would be like following the dark . . . and I quickly saw intense destruction — and promptly stated, “I could make myself insane.”

The light-path, instead, was calm . . . peaceful, full of love and respect. And I saw a vision of myself dressed all in white overlooking a desert. I chose the light after some thought and concentrated on what that would be like.

He truly brought me back to the light for that day — I was able to then make the conscious choice when thoughts arose, to disregard the negative.

I had a touch-stone of what kind of life the negative would bring me . . . how fragile I am, and what a slippery-slope depression can be.

I was back enough to know what I needed to do to maintain — and find healing and happiness.

I knew I needed to do some deep work and bring strength into following a healthy daily practice. I just wanted to be happy again — to be motivated, to laugh, to dance.

The next day I flew to Portland, Oregon for my brother’s graduation, followed by a road-trip. I was a bit worried how I would hold up on the week of family get-together’s and minivan’ing it down the coast with 5 family members.

I thought my tears would always be close to spilling, my instability conspicuous. I wrote a lot, and opened up to close friends who held me close, and oscillated between states — putting my best faces forward. The hardest part was waking up depressed, and trying to have a good day regardless — partially through writing, if possible — and partially through distractions of various sorts.

Despite my outward illustration of strength, everyone was worried about me, as I had lost 25 pounds since last October’s visit. I hadn’t realized the weight loss in the day-to-day, as I didn’t weigh myself — and had only had the deep depression/lack of eating for a week before the trip. I tried to explain that it’s because I stopped eating sugar/sweets, most greasy or fried foods, and cut-down on dairy and bread. It was a legitimate and honest description of my change in diet.

Regardless, their worries and conversation, mixed with the dark depression, helped me realize I really needed to do something different.

I wasn’t depressed all the time anymore. It would sway back and forth. But I nonchalantly started just wanting to be happy, have peace, feel like me again: Alive!

At the end of the roadtrip in Los Angeles, I was being social with friends and family. I went hiking, but in between, would just lay around — napping for the most part.

I was aware of the things I needed to get done logistically, and for work: I just didn’t care that there were consequences.

I had come up for air, but wasn’t strong enough to keep myself there. I just didn’t care when I was upset — about myself, about anything, an incredibly unfamiliar and uncomfortable spot.

I called a friend in Austin to see what he was up to, so I could have some support when I returned that evening:

He said he was leaving at 11:30 pm for a roadtrip to New Mexico for a yoga retreat. My flight arrived at 11:30, I was behind on work, and the idea of going with last-minute seemed a bit crazy. But as my two other best friends in Austin were gone (One in Morocco, and one living out his dream job chasing tornadoes on an NBC show) I knew it would be healthy. I decided it was worth a call to the organization, 3HO.

I wanted to put the idea out there in the universe and see the response. Fortunately, they had one financial aid scholarship left, and I registered right then without having decided to go or not. In fact, I went through the motions of organizing the logistics — finding a tent, a yoga mat, a Thermarest, a comforter and Camelback . . . getting the go-ahead from my bosses, ensuring the wireless card was sent to box, pack, mail in Espanola, New Mexico for pick-up without deciding.

Once I arrived in Austin that night, I still hadn’t decided, but figured, I would pack just in case — the other 4 in the car patiently waiting for me. By the time I was done packing at 2am it would only make sense to go, and in the back of my mind i figured I could always bus it back if I changed my mind.

Once on the road, I realized that at the retreat during the White Tantric Yoga days. I was going to be dressed in white, looking out over a desert, just like in my vision.

I felt an amazing surge of positivity, knowing that I had made the right choice. This was the real beginnings of my travels — and path towards healing and happiness.

And off we went.

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5 Comments on “A mind-body portrait of depression”

  1. emma, thanks so much for sharing your story with us!

  2. [...] is the second in a series, Finding happiness in all the right places, by a young female [...]

  3. [...] is the third in a series, Finding happiness in all the right places, by a young female [...]

  4. Emma, You have an enormous capacity and courage for going into yourself, at the same time as letting go of yourself. You're an inspiration

  5. [...] can be accompanied by clinical depression, as the codependent person succumbs to feelings of frustration or sadness over his or her inability [...]

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